It is hard to believe that it was almost ten years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated and simply had to have one! Although I had been in the creative end of the three dimensional sign business for most of my life I didn't really know what I would do with one of these machines - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Along with the CNC router I discovered the wonderful material called Precision Board and the glues, primers and other companion products they offer. Since then we have gone through many tons of the material using it in most signs and projects we tackle. This journal will chronicle our many adventures both past, present and future. I'll talk from the perspective of someone who pushes these products to the creative limit on a daily basis. I'll be adding to the stories two or three times each week. -dan

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tailgate party

It was time to fire up the MultiCam CNC plasma once more for the next stage of the little rail truck. I needed to build a functional tailgate. The truck will be powered with a four stroke gas engine which needs lots of air flow. When the weather is warm or I need to work on the drive train I can drop the tailgate. For normal operation there should be plenty of airflow with the open bed and top as well as through the logo which I cut into the tailgate.

The logo is to identify the pike's name... Persnickety & Doodle Railroad. 'Persnickety' is a nod to Janis, my loving wife of 43 years. She has an eye for detail (and accuracy) which she regularly employs. Janis is in charge of quality control. The 'Doodle' part references my drawing - which is one of my passions.

The files for the many pieces of the tailgate were created in EnRoute. They were cut from 3/16" and 1/18" thick steel plate which makes the tailgate sturdy enough to handle anything that might be thrown at it! With the tailgate on it was time to celebrate with a tailgate party.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Amazing installation!

This past week Peter and I flew out to Oshawa, Ontario to visit NEB's Fun World. After almost a year in design and construction the bulk of the pieces we built and transported there have been installed. The NEB's crew did a fabulous job! Our task was to do a few touchups, install some of the signs and do the texturing and faux finishing on the upper portions of the side walls. 

The pieces had never been previously fitted together s our shop is simply not nearly large enough. The sheer scale of the project is amazing. Our panels, fit together, covered more than four hundred feet of wall! 

As we worked I thought back to the first concept drawings done of the project. The first drawing is one done by Peter as we started to work out he logistics. It is of the left corner.

The picture below is of a similar angle and it is amazing how close we came as we designed. Once the ceiling panels are ct and installed it will look even more like the concept.

A second drawing which I did a little later worked out more of the details for presentation. A few things changed as we proceeded. The archways had to be flattened out a little to keep things legal for the serious bowlers. We were still working on the colors at this point as well.

Since our client had his own CNC router it didn't make sense to do all the pieces in British Columbia and then transport them across Canada. We simply provided the cutting files and he took it from there for the grass, tree and mountain silhouettes.

Despite the pieces being loaded, transported more than 4,000 kilometres, unloaded, and lifted into place they were in almost perfect shape. We created more than a hundred pieces in all and they fit together almost perfectly. We did only a little caulking to fill a couple small gaps. Two days of on site painting finished our work.

The NEB's crew was still lifting the last of the posts into position as we worked and has yet to cut and install the ceiling flats but it is coming together quickly. The tough part of the job is that they did it without shutting down more than a few lanes at a time. While they worked guests were still bowling around them. Below is a panorama shot showing the immense nature of the job.

There is more to come as well. Special lighting is being tested and will be installed across the entire back wall. The owners will be able to create special lighting effects and shows which will be spectacular!

We now head back to our studio to begin design for the e=next phases of the project. This is going to be fun!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pickup artist

Each time I can spare a few minutes of my free time I head out to the shop to work on the rail pickup. In those minutes I build a file, fire up the plasma cutter to cut some pieces or do a little welding. Those minutes add up and I am making real progress. The pickup bed is now largely complete and the four fenders are fabricated and welded into place. The transmission is in place and will soon be mated to the motor. A test drive isn't far away. This is fun!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

This year's display

We were delighted with the display booth we put together for last year's showing at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions EXPO in Orlando, Florida. The booth was good enough to garner a first place Brass Ring Award in it's size class. The experience of displaying at the massive show for the first time taught us many things. Our idea to ship a complete display piece with all of the show pieces attached was a brilliant move. We were able to set up in mere minutes. Take down at the end of the show was just as fast.

The display garnered a whole lot of positive attention during the show but in retrospect the display was a bit cluttered and busy. We learned that people are overwhelmed at a show of this type and scale with wall to wall eye candy everywhere they went. We needed to get our message across simply and in a hurry. We had many fine dimensional signs on display but these signs confused some people. We made a note to have no words in our next display except our concise message.

We needed to answer only two questions. 'Who are we?' 'What do we do?'

This year's display will be twenty feet wide instead of ten feet. Rather than scrap last year's effort we would rebuild in a simpler fashion. The booth will effectively be divided into three areas. The left hand side will be 'our design studio'. It will be labeled DESIGN in bold letters. The desk area will be smaller than last year's effort. I'll be sitting here drawing up some digital drawing concepts during show hours with a TV screen behind me showcasing my drawings. Pinned on the wall behind me will be concept drawings of various past projects.

The center area will be our 'fabrication shop'. We'll have a single large piece 'in progress' in the center. On the back wall in large dimensional letters will be 'IMAGINATION CORPORATION'. We will have some 'tools' handy in the display. The purpose of this area is to show our name boldly and that we build what we design. We will dress in 'work clothes' to further tell our story.

On the right side of the display will be an area with some concept study models. Above, on the back wing wall in bold letters will be the word 'BUILD'.

Today we began work on the new booth, first gutting last years display and then beginning the new fabrication. As with last year's display the structural elements are all heavy duty plasma cut and welded steel.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Dayna's tree

We received a request for a very special sign recently. A family had lost their four year old daughter to cancer and wanted a sign for a park they were dedicating to Dayna. We came up with the idea of a tree. Dayna loved ladybugs and so four ladybugs will be hiding on the tree for other children to find. A small fairy door will be tucked between the roots.

With the design approved we started in on the build. As with many of our projects there will be a variety of materials used. The base is cut from a sheet of half inch thick steel. The file was designed in EnRoute and the MultiCam CNC Plasma made short work of this part of the project.

Then it was time for some sturdy structural steel. The tree frame will get a sturdy lifting point to handle the loading and placing on site. It has to be plenty strong as the tree will travel about two thousand miles by truck.

Once the basic structural frame was donee started welding up the pencil rod armature and tying on the galvanized lath. The double sided sign was designed in EnRoute a d routed on our MultiCam from three layers of 30 lb Precision Board. The steel structure is embedded in the centre layer of the sign. Once I had located the sign we can now continue building the top portion of the tree armature.

Today I designed the cutting files (in EnRoute) for the steel leaves. I then formed them and welded in half in steel rods for the stems. Once we finish grinding them we will send them off to the powder coaters.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Metalwork fun

More than a dozen years ago we decided to build a fifteen inch gauge railroad around our yard. Every grampa should have a model train to share with their grand kids... and mine would be big enough to ride in. I started work on the project before our fist grandchild was born. There was a small engine, some railcars and an inspection vehicle. This little vehicle would be gas powered.

I designed up the car which resembled a narrow model T with a side car. I wanted something really different and so it had only three wheels - which seemed like a great idea at the time. The truth is I actually outsmarted myself. When I finally got it rolling and tested it on the track which we had laid down the driveway  it worked great - until we came to the first corner. Then it derailed. It was time to go back to the drawing board! The project languished for many years as we tackled a thousand other projects.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Painting the train

As I finished the models Becke began the painting. She started with the elephant engine. With large detailed models the painting process is painstaking, taking almost as long as a full sized piece. The base colours are layered on, then the glazes. All of it is done with fine artist's brushes. We still have a couple of day's work to do before they are done but a circus train never looked better!

Sculpting fun!

I used Abracadabra Sculpting epoxy to sculpt the animal bodies of the train. Steel rods were used as reinforcement. The shapes were first bulked out and allowed to harden. Then I went back over the pieces adding detail as necessary. I did the sculpts over a period of three days.